Inside my room, a Nespresso Essenza Mini coffee maker sat atop a mini-fridge stocked with Voss water, Coca-Cola, Fever-Tree mixers and Labatt Blue beer —- the sole Canadian product. A tiny welcome box from Montreal’s Suite88 Chocolatier delighted me, until I noticed prices on a little placard (6 to 11 dollars). The hushed, subterranean Le Spa, which touts Valmont and Phytomer treatments and a eucalyptus-scented steam hammam, sat empty; I couldn’t find anyone to answer questions. On the same basement floor, the hotel’s low-ceilinged gym squeezes an exercise bike, Stairmaster, and treadmill by the Spanish maker BH Fitness into a bedroom-size space. Free Wi-Fi was fast and consistent throughout the property.
Though inspired by Paris, not Montreal, the majestically columned Restaurant Henri became my favorite part of the hotel. Designed by Montreal’s Atelier Zebulon Perron, the buzzing brasserie boasts stained-glass accents, green velvet banquettes, pendant lighting and a lively elevated bar. A table near the entrance gave me unobstructed views of the soaring space. Breakfast brought lukewarm coffee (4 dollars) and a wan spinach-and-cheese omelet (17 dollars) with requested greens in place of potatoes. A generous fruit plate (9 dollars) glistened with fresh pineapple, mango, grape and kiwi. Later, creamy butternut-squash soup (8 dollars) and beautifully composed beet salad (8 dollars) made a perfect lunch — filling, but refined. Restaurant Henri’s kitchen pauses between meals, so if you crave room service between, say, 10:30 a.m. and noon, you’re out of luck.
The Bottom Line
Posh but anonymous — only its exterior, circa 1894, roots you in Montreal — Hotel Birks makes a glossy home base in a central location. If service polishes up, Hotel Birks might blossom into the ultraluxury experience to which it aspires. Once construction ends on Phillips Square, it might also become convenient.
Hotel Birks Montreal; 1240 Phillips Square; hotelbirksmontreal.com
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